US-led Indo-Pacific bloc divisive: Russia minister

Shubhajit Roy
india russia ties, indo pacific initiative, russia foreign minister, Russia foreign minister jaishankar meeting, s jaishhankar, indian express 
india russia ties, indo pacific initiative, russia foreign minister, Russia foreign minister jaishankar meeting, s jaishhankar, indian express

Exernal Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov in New Delhi, Wednesday. PTI

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday strongly criticised the US-led Indo-Pacific initiative, calling it a “divisive approach” to disrupt existing regional structures and contain China’s influence in the region.

“Why call it Indo-Pacific? The answer is to contain China. Indian friends are smart enough to understand the trap. We should not be divisive,” Lavrov said at the ongoing Raisina Dialogue. “We have to be careful with the terminology, which looks benign but might be something else.”
The Russian minister also slammed the US for what he called disregarding international rules and norms while selectively talking about rules-based global order for its self-interests.

Referring to the US-backed Indo-Pacific strategy, Lavrov called it an attempt to “reconfigure the existing structures”, and to move away from the ASEAN-centric consensus for the region.

“It is an attempt to seek forms of interactions to something which would be divisive,” he said in the presence of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and foreign ministers and diplomats from around 40 countries.

“A new concept was created, called Indo-Pacific strategy, initiated firstly by the US, Australia, Japan...When we asked the initiators about the difference between Indo-Pacific strategies and ASEAN-Pacific regional cooperation, they said Indo-Pacific is more open, more democratic,” Lavrov said. “If you look at it closely, it is not at all the case.”

Later, in a meeting, Lavrov conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that President Vladimir Putin is looking forward to Modi’s visit to Russia in May 2020 to participate in the 75th anniversary celebration of the Victory Day, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, and in July 2020 for the BRICS and SCO summits.

Modi welcomed multiple occasions this year to meet Putin, and said he also looks forward to hosting the Russian President in India for the annual bilateral summit later this year.

The Prime Minister noted that several important decisions and outcomes were reached between the two countries in 2019. He suggested that the year 2020, which is also the 20th anniversary year of the establishment of strategic partnership between India and the Russian Federation, should be the “year of implementation of those decisions”.

“The PM referred to the wide-ranging conversation he had with President Putin over telephone on 13 January 2020, and noted the progress in the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between the two countries in the previous year,” the MEA said in a statement.